Military's 2nd-in-command resigns post after golfing with Jonathan Vance
Lt.-Gen Mike Rouleau said he invited Vance to play golf 'to ensure his wellness'
The Canadian military's second-in-command is resigning his post after playing golf recently with retired chief of the defence staff Jonathan Vance, who is under investigation for sexual misconduct.
Lt.-Gen. Mike Rouleau announced today he plans to step aside as vice-chief of the defence staff and begin the process of leaving the military.
Rouleau golfed with Vance at the Hylands Golf and Country Club in Ottawa on June 2, along with Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy Vice-Admiral Craig Baines.
In a media statement, Rouleau said his decision to play golf with Vance "has intensified recent events and contributed to further erosion of trust."
Rouleau said he invited Vance to play golf "to ensure his wellness." He insisted he and Vance did not discuss anything related to ongoing investigations during their outing.
"I understand how such an activity could lead some to perceive a potential conflict of interest and controversy, given the current context, but nothing can be further from the truth," Rouleau said in his statement.
The woman at the centre of Vance's sexual misconduct case, Maj. Kellie Brennan, delivered bombshell testimony to a parliamentary committee in April. She told MPs Vance considered himself "untouchable" and that he fathered but does not support two of her children.
Vance, the former defence chief, is facing separate allegations of misconduct involving Brennan and another unidentified woman. Military police are looking into whether his relationship with Brennan, a former subordinate, was inappropriate and contravened military regulations.
He is also being investigated for allegedly sending a racy email almost nine years ago to another woman, who was a junior non-commissioned officer at the time.
Vance has told Global News that he denies the allegations.
Rouleau oversees military investigations department
As vice-chief of the defence staff, Rouleau has authority over the military's provost marshal. The provost marshal is in charge of the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS), which is investigating Vance over allegations of inappropriate behaviour with female subordinates.
Rouleau said CFNIS investigations are "completely independent" from his office and that he has never interfered with an investigation, including those into allegations of sexual misconduct.
"I have no power over any military police probe whatsoever," he said.
WATCH: Liberal MP Anita Vandenbeld, Conservative MP James Bezan and NDP MP Lindsay Mathyssen discuss the departure of Lt.-Gen. Mike Rouleau on CBC's Power & Politics
Rouleau also said Baines' participation "was surely predicated on my attending" and asked that "only I be held accountable."
"It's very upsetting," said Paula MacDonald, a retired soldier who has been pursuing a separate complaint of sexual misconduct for the past six years.
She said the golf outing points to the military's tendency to suppress allegations against those in power.
"It shows that their priorities are with supporting people who have been accused of sexual misconduct as opposed to the victims of sexual misconduct," MacDonald told CBC News.
A departure from the military begins
The Department of National Defence said Rouleau will transfer to the Canadian Armed Forces Transition Group, a department that helps soldiers prepare for post-military life.
"The length of time it will take remains to be determined," the DND said in a statement about Rouleau.
It's not yet clear if Rouleau will receive his full pension.
Lieutenant-General Wayne Eyre, acting chief of the defence staff, called the golf outing "troubling" and said both Rouleau and Baines have accepted responsibility for their participation.
Maj.-Gen. B.F. Frawley has been named acting vice chief of the defence staff after Rouleau's departure. Lt.-Gen. Frances Allen will take on the role on a permanent basis in the coming weeks, Eyre confirmed.
O'Toole blames Liberal leadership
Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole, meanwhile, said today that it was "completely inappropriate" for senior military leaders to golf with Vance earlier this month.
The Conservative leader also accused the Liberal government, and specifically Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, of demonstrating a lack of leadership through its handling of sexually inappropriate behaviour in the Canadian military.
"It was completely inappropriate and it shows that there is a broken culture in the senior ranks at the Department of National Defence that they did not have the personal judgment to make a better decision," O'Toole told reporters Monday.
More than half a dozen military leaders have been swept up in the military's misconduct crisis and a number are under military police investigation over claims of inappropriate behaviour.
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'Very disappointed, very surprised' — Freeland
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Freeland told reporters that she learned about the golfing excursion over the weekend at the same time the rest of the Liberal government did.
"I was very disappointed, very surprised. I think this showed very poor judgment and I absolutely understand and sympathize with the sentiment that men and women, especially women, serving in the Canadian Armed Forces have, having seen this and the concerns that it causes them to have about the possibility of real fairness for them," she said.
Freeland said there needs to be "real change in the culture in the Canadian armed forces"
The finance minister said there is funding in the federal budget to launch such a system and encouraged opposition MPs in the House of Commons to back the budget so that the government can get started.
With files from Ashley Burke